To Hell for venial sin?

(I am not asserting that souls go to Hell for venial sin alone).

Basically, I am having some difficulty reconciling the following (what I believe to be) Church teachings:

  • We are not born with sanctifying grace
  • Sanctifying grace is necessary for salvation

So, what happens to those who die unbaptised (by water, desire or blood) - and therefore lack sanctifying grace - but who have committed only venial sins?

If I have made any error, please correct me.

I appreciate any help! God bless.

Wouldn’t that be the case of someone who lived without knowing the revelation of God (through no fault of their own)? For them, then, there is still the possibility of salvation. Therefore, it is not the case that, in the situation you pose, all are condemned to hell.

I can’t perceive of anyone going to Hell for a venial sin - Purgatory, if it hasn’t been washed away before death, most probably, and if only one venial sin, not for long I would imagine.

There are a few theories. I personally prefer the third (basically, any person who commits only venial sins does in fact have baptism by desire - see below).

  1. They go to hell.
  2. Limbo. Not commonly held. Insofar as I understand, most of those who believe that limbo is a possibility tend to reserve it for children who have not reached the age of reason.
  3. Baptism of desire is broader than explicit desire, and so may still save them.

The idea that explicit desire for baptism is not required for baptism by desire rests on the idea that, as Jesus says, we are either for or against Him, as well as seek and you shall find.

That is, a person who lives a life seeking to do what is good and right and seeking after goodness itself is in fact seeking God. If this person does not, through no fault of their own, have the opportunity to get baptized by ordinary means, then their implicit desire for God and decision to act on it may be sufficient for God to provide baptism by desire.

Basically, it is not possible to lead a “nuetral” life, where we commit only venial sins but neither accept (at least implicitly) or reject (again, at least implicitly) God. We either put ourselves above what is good and true, or what is good and true above ourselves. We cannot serve two masters, and we will serve at least one.

Mortal sin is exactly explicitly deciding to serve the wrong master, to pursue selfish ends rather than God, and so a person who does not commit a mortal sin by definition is not serving the wrong the master. Which means that he’s serving the right Master, even if he doesn’t know exactly what this means and, because of his ignorance, may not actually be making a very good job at it.

In the case where a real and true desire to seek the good exists, even without the knowledge that the good is God who incarnated and died for us, it is possible that God will see this desire and accept it as desire for Him, and thus provide baptism by desire.

This of course relies on extraordinary action by God, but if there is one thing we know about God, it is that He is merciful. Note that knowledge of God can affect one’s choice to follow Him, and so the idea that some people may be implicitly choosing God over themselves without realizing this explicitly does not lower the urgency of evangelization - by our actions we may help others to follow God who wouldn’t otherwise, explicitly or implicitly. All this does is point out that there may be hope even when we fail.

All sin separates us from God and without Christ work on the cross, no one would be in heaven…not a single person. So yes venial sins will keep someone from heaven if they are not baptized by water blood or desire.

Christ offers us a gift that we must receive and hold onto. We must evangelize the world to this gift.

Really the terms venial and mortal sins refers to Christians, with non Christians there is just sin.

Venial sins are sins that do not break the relationship with God that you chose in your baptism. Mortal sins are sins that break the relationship with God that you established at baptism.

So this distinction has no meaning unless you came into the state of grace to begin with.

If non Christians can be saved, it will not be because of a lack of serious sin or only commiting little sins, or because they were a “good person”. It will be because God chose to impart his grace and mercy on that person despite their sins…possibly due to their ignorance of knowing the gospel but willingness to follow God as best they know.

Thanks for the replies! :slight_smile:

My question is perhaps more complex than it seems. The distinction between the absence of sanctifying grace due to our fallen nature alone (e.g. in the case of a newborn), and the absence of sanctifying grace due to mortal sin is essential to my problem.

In the latter case, it is obvious that the soul will be lost if it dies in a state of mortal sin, for it is morally culpable of grave personal sin. But in the former case, it is possible that one who is unbaptised, reaches the “age of reason”, then, before doing anything gravely contrary to the moral law, commits some slight fault. In this case, the soul lacks sanctifying grace (though not due to mortal sin), but is also guilty of personal sin.

Purgatory, then, seems impossible. Purgatory is for the saved (i.e. those who die possessing sanctifying grace).
Limbo seems impossible. Limbo is for those who have committed no personal sin.

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich: “I had the happy assurance that no soul was lost whom ignorance alone hindered from knowing Jesus, who had a vague desire to know Him, and who had not lived in a state of grievous sin.”

The thing, though, is that you presume 'the absence of sanctifying grace," and I’m not sure that’s a reasonable assumption. After all, God is not bound by the laws He gives us; if He wishes, in His justice, He can supply His mercy gratuitously, solely by His will. (In that case, sanctifying grace might be obtained in a way that’s outside the normative way that we know (that is, through baptism).)

In the latter case, it is obvious that the soul will be lost if it dies in a state of mortal sin, for it is morally culpable of grave personal sin.

But that wasn’t the initial scenario that you proposed! Your original post asked only about those who die unbaptized in the state of venial sin! (Can we disregard this scenario, then?)

But in the former case, it is possible that one who is unbaptised, reaches the “age of reason”, then, before doing anything gravely contrary to the moral law, commits some slight fault. In this case, the soul lacks sanctifying grace (though not due to mortal sin), but is also guilty of personal sin.

Purgatory, then, seems impossible. Purgatory is for the saved (i.e. those who die possessing sanctifying grace).

Purgatory is also for those who, having received sanctifying grace, have either no unforgiven sin or only venial unforgiven sin on their souls. So, in this case, if God had provided sanctifying grace through His mercy, then purgatory would not be impossible.

Limbo seems impossible. Limbo is for those who have committed no personal sin.

Limbo seems impossible… since it’s not a doctrine of the Church. :wink:

Firstly, thanks for taking the time to respond.

  1. I’m not assuming anything; it is a fact that we are born without sanctifying grace. I also accept that God is not bound by the Sacraments; in principle, God is able to infuse sanctifying grace into one’s soul in an extraordinary manner. But this is not Church doctrine - hence my confusion.

  2. I was using this example by means of comparison.

  3. By “saved” I include those souls who are imperfectly purified from sin. You’re right - if God provides the soul with sanctifying grace, then they are saved. The question is: does He? If so, how and when? I am content with not knowing; I am not looking for speculative theology so much as theological principles that might help me to answer my questions.

  4. By Limbo I mean a state of natural happiness. Limbo cannot be discounted so easily; certainly not without grave implications for unbaptised infants, given the Church’s teaching on this issue (i.e. that those who die in original sin only do not attain the Beatific Vision). If Limbo does not exist, then you must either assert that these souls are damned (which is contrary to the teachings of Pope Pius IX, for example) or that they certainly attain the Beatific Vision. The Church does not go so far as this; she teaches that we may hope for their salvation (by an extraordinary act of God’s mercy, outside of the “ordinary” course of things). (I do not wish to argue this point, by the way. I only want to refute the false notion that Limbo is an impossibility. I believe that unbaptised infants are certainly not condemned. I also believe that it is possible in principle for these souls to be cleansed of original sin in an extraordinary manner unknown to us).

“Secondly, oh brother are you mistaken”…? :wink:

(Sorry, couldn’t resist…!)

  1. I’m not assuming anything

Well, your scenarios hinged on the fact that the unbaptized had no access to sanctifying grace, and therefore, lacked it. I’m only pointing out that the lack of baptism does not, per se, imply a lack of sanctifying grace (since God might supply it on His own initiative).

in principle, God is able to infuse sanctifying grace into one’s soul in an extraordinary manner. But this is not Church doctrine - hence my confusion.

In fact, it is Church doctrine that God is able to do so. Otherwise, how could the Church teach, as she does, that those who do not know Christ through no fault of their own may yet be saved?

  1. By “saved” I include those souls who are imperfectly purified from sin. You’re right - if God provides the soul with sanctifying grace, then they are saved. The question is: does He? If so, how and when? I am content with not knowing; I am not looking for speculative theology so much as theological principles that might help me to answer my questions.

Ahh, there’s the rub. :wink:

We don’t know – and we can’t know – the ‘how’ and ‘when’ here, other than to say ‘by God’s unfathomable grace’ and ‘whenever He wishes’. Nothing else has been given to us in God’s self-revelation.

  1. By Limbo I mean a state of natural happiness.

Yet, this is not a doctrine of the Church. Yes, it’s been debated and discussed and taught as a theory, but it is not doctrine. Have you read The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized? Its comments on the history of the notion of Limbo is quite interesting…

Limbo cannot be discounted so easily; certainly not without grave implications for unbaptised infants, given the Church’s teaching on this issue (i.e. that those who die in original sin only do not attain the Beatific Vision).

This only holds if by “unbaptized infants” you mean “those who die in original sin”, and therefore implying “those who die without the gratuitous gift of sanctifying grace given by God”. We cannot know with any kind of certainty that this is the case with unbaptized infants.

The Church does not go so far as this; she teaches that we may hope for their salvation (by an extraordinary act of God’s mercy, outside of the “ordinary” course of things).

Correct. And our ‘hope’ does not lie in the presence or absence of this mercy, but rather, is simply an expression of the fact that we do not know how this mercy is applied – and therefore, all we can say about it is that we know God is merciful and so we have reason to hope that applies to unbaptized infants.

I think it would be relevant to point out that there’s a world of difference between what secular ‘hope’ is and what ‘Christian hope’ is. Secular hope says, “I have no idea whether it’s gonna rain during our picnic today, but gee, I sure wish that it doesn’t!” Christian hope, though, isn’t merely wishful thinking: it’s belief in things unseen. We do not see souls in heaven, but through the eyes of faith, we know that God redeems His people. Therefore, in Christian hope, we know that it’s true. I would assert that this is the context that the Church asserts its hope in the salvation of unbaptized infants. We know that God wants all to be saved; we know that He is able to provide His grace in ways beyond those that are given to us as our normative means of salvation; we know that His mercy is boundless. We just don’t know “with sure knowledge”; therefore, we have Christian hope.

(I do not wish to argue this point, by the way. I only want to refute the false notion that Limbo is an impossibility.

Unicorns are not an impossibility, either. Are you saying that you wish to argue for the existence of Limbo, or simply the much weaker statement that it is not a formal impossibility? (I’ll grant you the assertion that neither unicorns nor Limbo are formal impossibilities, of course. But… do you wish to argue for anything more than that?)

Thanks again for the reply.

I essentially agree with what you have written. There has been a bit of a communication breakdown on a few points, but that is understandable considering my haste in writing the response. I was not saying, for example, that it is not Church doctrine that God can or does operate outside the Sacraments; I was only saying that this is not doctrine in relation to those who die without baptism. Nevertheless, I hope that God does provide mercy to such individuals; the Church’s teaching does give us grounds for hope as you have rightly said.

Rather than clarify a few of my points, I will say this: thank you for taking the time to respond; you have a good understanding of some very important issues; and thank you for emphasising the virtue of Christian hope: I agree that it is radically different from secular hope.

I certainly don’t assume that unbaptised infants die with no chance of being cleansed of original sin; but as it stands, there remains the possibility that they die in original sin. St. Bridget and Ven. Mary of Agreda believed that these souls attain a state of natural happiness. This is a possibility, whether or not Limbo is authoritative doctrine (I am not arguing either way). I believe that this is at least possible; however, I also hold the possibility that this “state” is only temporary, and that God might grant His mercy to these souls in a way unknown to us.

Take care and God bless.

Just as a BTW, the Church does say that Mary received sanctifying grace outside the sacraments. Doctrine. Infallible. Immaculate Conception.

Paragraph 1260, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition
**1260 **“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of His Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

Questions?

Note: Babies and young children are humans and therefore they qualify for CCC 1260.All means all. :thumbsup:

I also believe this.

Thanks for the response. This doesn’t directly answer my original question but it is a valuable quotation.

My original question was a bit more specific

Hmm… How so? You said, “So, what happens to those who die unbaptised (by water, desire or blood) - and therefore lack sanctifying grace - but who have committed only venial sins?”

Granny’s quote seems to answer your question: those who die unbaptized are “called to one and the same destiny” and therefore “the Holy Spirit offers to [them] the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” This doesn’t directly address your question? It would seem that it answers it by responding “yes, they’re offered the (same) possibility that the baptized are”…!

I’ll be honest - this whole time I have been trying to avoid the “excruciating minutiae” of clarifications that would be necessary for me to adequately describe what I am asking. Given my original question, the aforementioned answer was accurate, but it did not add to the quote that I gave from Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich.

I have deemed it prudent for me to leave this question aside for now.

Thank you and God bless.

OK. Yet, given that it seems that you’re asking a really distinct question – perhaps one that is attempting to get an answer for one particular situation (?) – it would seem that precision and ‘minutiae’ are the only way to drill down into the question… :shrug:

I have deemed it prudent for me to leave this question aside for now.

OK.

Blessings,
G.

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